Metrolina Greenhouses, the largest single-site, heated wholesale greenhouse operation in the U.S., celebrates its 50 year anniversary on April 26, 2022.
The privately owned producer of ornamental plants, including annuals, perennials, shrubs and trees, spans more than 200 acres of greenhouses and 1,000 acres of land in Huntersville, North Carolina and York, South Carolina.
Founded in 1972 on one acre in Huntersville, North Carolina by Tom and Vickie VanWingerden, who came to the U.S. from the Netherlands in 1971 with $500 and a dream, Metrolina Greenhouses has grown over the past 50 years to become one of the largest and most innovative greenhouse operations in the world.
Today, Metrolina Greenhouses is owned and led by Tom and Vickie’s six children – co-CEOs Abe and Art, co-COOs Michael and Thomas, and board of directors members Helen and Rose. Metrolina Greenhouses employs 800 year-round, full-time team members with the addition of 400 seasonal workers during peak production.
The company grows and supplies 75 million garden plants annually, selling plants at 1,400 retail outlets in 19 states across the Southeast and Mid-Atlantic regions for Lowe’s Home Improvement, The Home Depot and Walmart. In the past year, Metrolina Greenhouses began fulfilling online orders for these retailers, shipping plants directly to consumers’ homes in 50 states.
Co-CEO Abe VanWingerden said his family and business team are thankful to everyone who helped get Metrolina Greenhouses to where it is today, from the previous generation including Metrolina’s founders and the extended VanWingerden family, to Metrolina Greenhouses’ employees, retail partners and vendors. VanWingerden added the company lauds its history while looking at its 50th anniversary as a springboard for the future.
“What I love is, at 50 years, we still feel like a young company,” Abe said. “I see how much more we can accomplish the next 10 years than even what we have done in the last 50 years, because innovation and technology allow us to accomplish our goals so much faster.”
Metrolina has consistently expanded at a rate of approximately 12-14 acres per year, according to Art VanWingerden. “Nobody would have ever dreamed Metrolina would be the size it is today,” he explained. “We’re adding more acres per year than what Dad originally thought we were going to be. He thought if we could get to 12 acres, we’d be set – we’d never have to add on again.”
The legacy of the past 50 years is important, Art said, but the main driver for the business today is sustainable, strategic growth.
“We want to be sure we’re building a successful business for the employees we have and the customers we’re serving.”